Vulnerability hangover – a REAL issue!

Have you heard about Brené Brown? She is a research professor who spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  Her TED talk in 2010 (The Power of Vulnerability) is one of the most viewed TED talks ever, with over 25 million viewers.

In the talk she reveals to the audience that she had a personal break down and had to see a psychologist for a year when she, through her research, realized that vulnerability is essential for whole hearted living. Vulnerability, was something she tried to avoid her whole life, so she found her own result over whelming!

I love the follow up Ted talk[1] which she gave two years after the massively popular first one. She there revealed that she had suffered a massive Vulnerability Hangover after giving the first talk! She wouldn’t leave the house for a week, and when she finally did, she met a friend for lunch and she suggested that they break into the venue and snatch the tape before they had the chance to put it on youtube! “I told these 500 people I had a break down! I had a slide saying breakdown. They will put this thing on youtube!  We are talking about 600-700 people watching this! This cant happened! How did I EVER THINK it was a good idea to say all those things!?!”

To witch her friend replied: “You are like the worst vulnerability raw model ever!”

This conversation made me laugh when I saw it, Vulnerability Hangover!? And for someone who studies and works with vulnerability!?

However, now, I know that vulnerability hangover is REAL!

A couple of weeks ago I, for some reason, decided that it would be a Good Idea, to write a blog post about my biggest secret ever, my eating disorders which I have hidden for everyone, myself included for about 18 years by now. It has been a process over 1 year and 3 months of me admitting to myself, telling my closest family, some friends, to expand to a month ago telling my extended family and most of my friends. So now, time was ripe for admitting to, what seemed like the whole wide world, through my blog and Facebook.

Great..

I wrote the post, edited, and edited it, and edited it, and.. and published it! Usually I alert some friends to a new post by sending messages to them or sharing it on their walls. This time.. no..! I shared it on one friends wall, but then thought;

“Actually, I’ve done my bit now. I’ve published it. If anyone wish to read it, it is there.”

..secretly thinking and hoping that it probably would drown in all the cute kitten pictures, food porn and capoeira videos that floats around on Facebook.

Next morning when I woke up (literally with a scream of pain, due to that my back was out of place!) the first conscious thought that went through my mind was;

“Oh Dear!! Please say that I DIDN’T do that last night!! I did not share that blog post, did I!?!?”

..yes I did..

Damn..

Knowing that I had at least not shared it or told anyone, probably it would pass through the feed quite anonymously, made me feel slightly better as I run off to work.

I came home at lunch time, and I had already decided that if no one had looked at it by the evening, then, perhaps I would alert a few people to it..

As I ate my lunch I opened Facebook. Shit!! 30 likes! And some comments..! I went to the sight, looked at the stats and nearly feel of my chair!

170 people, at that point had looked it!! 170 people!! WHO WERE ALL THESE PEOPLE!?! Slight panic running through the body.. 170 people, but like, WHO has read it..!?

As I went off to my next class I thought that, just like Facebook can show you the names of everyone who has liked your post, could I demand from wordpress that they did the same!? Like just ask them if I please could have a list, just a list, with all the names of people who had read it so that I knew exactly who knew my secret so I never had to look them in the eyes again!!

But somewhere around there, I stopped my thoughts, took a deep breath and actually thought of how amazing all this was! That it is NOT a secret anymore and also, that I was physically capable of writing about and share my experiences of eating disorders!

6 months ago, I was NOT able to write about my addictions like this! And a year ago..!? HA! I couldn’t even take the words in my mouth! Even though, exactly a year ago when I had just admitted and discovered all this, I went on a trip to purposely focusing on dealing with these issues, and even though my days were all oriented towards and scheduled around me dealing with these issues through yoga, meditation and writing, I was still absolutely INCAPABLE of talking about it! I only told one person that I met what my real intention of my trip was.

In the midst of dealing with this, everything was rather confusing and my mind broken by the fact that I could have done all that to myself and lied to myself about it for so long! At that point, I did not know how or if I could put myself back together again. However in that period, I received some crumbles of hope, that it would be OK after all, and these crumbles, I treated like Gold Dust!

The first time it happened, I was in the midst of a yoga workshop about the history and foundation of yoga, when the teacher, my favorite teacher, said in passing, completely out of context, that she had had “all eating disorders under the sun”.

I had to contain myself from not standing up in the yoga studio, and with my arms in the air shout “Stop!! Hold it right there!! Can you go back..? What did you say..? Eating disorders..? Did you just say that you.. but now you seem fine.. you mean that you.. I mean, can we talk about THIS instead of yoga!?!? Please..!!”

But I didn’t say anything. I just stared at her in fascination, that she also had been There, but now seemed to be just Fine!! I continued to train with her for another month, but I never dared to say a word about what she said in the workshop or why I was there.

Second time was also a yoga teacher at the studio where I trained. It was something with him..! I don’t know what it was, but it was something about him which caught my interest. I saw that there was a book by him in the bookshop (Les Leventhal, “Two lifestyles, one lifetime”) and when I picked it up, it turned out that he used to be a drug addict, alcoholic, prostitute and porn star! Wow! Really? And now.. he seemed so fine.. A friend of mine lend me the book and even before I had finished reading it, I went to buy my own copy. I knew that it was a book I needed to come back to over and over again.

What fascinated me was his honesty about his previous problems and capability to write about it, but even more so, I could not stop thinking about how it could be that I, despite never been a drug user or alcoholic, nor prostitute or porn star, how could it be that I recognized myself So MUCH in his story..!?

It was when I re-read the book a couple of months later when it clicked with me.

Self destructive behaviour, low self worth, hidden by addictions..

Addictions..

Same shit different name..!

Drugs and alcohol, or eating disorders, or overdose of sex,  shopping or training,  it is all done for the same reason, I believe, to numb the real pain, and distract oneself from the real underlying problems. Addictions comes in many forms, but I believe they are all a great hiding place from the real underlying problems, and are all a cover up for low self esteem and self worth.

By re-reading his book I started to shift my thinking around eating disorders and I could see that it is a form of addiction and self destructive behaviour. And not a disease which happens to you, as I used to see it.  (For me, the importance of realizing that it is an addiction and not a disease, meant that I no longer strive to “get well!”. I  have been so preoccupied to find ways to get well from this, and be able to call myself Well again, free from the disorder and go about life like it never even happened! By realizing it is a form of addiction, makes it a part of me that I actively have to make sure I do not fall back into it, but also accept that it is, forever, a part of my history and who I am, it will not go away, so I better accept it and stand for it.. right!?)

But I did NOT TALK about this shift in thinking, or my ideas. I kept it all firmly to myself.

The last crumble, which turned into gold dust, was a number of instagram posts by a girl that I randomly had met in that yoga studio. We were hanging out a bit and exchanged social media details.

Suddenly she was posting these instagram pictures and writing about how amazing it was to be far from her previous eating disorders.

“Her what!?!” I nearly fell of my chair again. She!? As well!?! And suddenly it made sense! It was something about her.. her light and glow.. and when I heard it, I understood what it was, since it seems like only those who has been so deep in the dark and in her case, being on the border of not wanting to continue, those people seem to be able to appreciate the Light even more when they come out on the other side!

I saw a number of her posts, and I appreciated deeply that she was able to just talk about it, write about it and share it with the world! Yet, it took another couple of months before I finally, had the courage to contact her and say how much I appreciated to see her writing, and then, I told her, that that was actually the reason why I was in that yoga studio in the first place where I met her.

We had been training alongside each other for a couple of months, without knowing that we both were dealing with similar issues. But I was not able, physically incapable of talking about it then!

But now, I am. So why not!?

Sure, I was quite horrified to see that soo many (in my opinion) people had seen my post and read about my secret, but then I reminded myself that it is not a secret anymore, and writing that, sharing that did not kill me, did not even hurt me. OK, it terrified me for about half a day, but then, I just found it ASTONISHING that I was capable of doing it! In that aspect, I have made some real progress since I was not able to neither talk or write about it just a couple of months back!

One of the reasons for why I shared the post is that I cannot think of a better way to face my fear of admitting to this, by going straight into it, destroying that fear by showing myself that it was not so bad after all, that it will not kill me to talk about it.

But also, equally important, because we do not know who is listening.

We actually do not know who might need to hear those words today.

Just as me hearing and reading the words from three people who shared their experiences, and came out alright, meant so much to me. Although I never told them this, I will always be grateful for hearing those words when I needed it the most.

So now when I can write about it, why not!? That is the least I can do, to pass on what I was so happy to receive, who knows, perhaps someone else will appreciate it?

Truth is, we never know who is listening or watching us, and our actions can have positive impacts on others, even if we never realize it. That applies to so many things! We do not know the impact of our action on others, even when we stumble, fall and fail, it might be helpful for someone else, to see that we can fail and fall, and get up again.

So vulnerability hangover is certainly real, the regret that can hit when we opened our selves up, however (usually!) it is not killing us! And if it hurts us just a bit, but maybe is important to someone, then I believe it’s worth it! Don’t you think..!?

Thank you for listening!

Yours Sincerely

Sofia Sunden

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[1] Brené Brown, Ted Talk 2012, Listening to Shame, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0

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